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Jana + Koos Are Setting Art Free

While the struggle to get paid fairly for your work as a creative is real, often the most innovative work is not what’s on the invoice. While creative duo Jana + Koos make conceptual and creatively-satisfying work for paying customers on the regular, it’s through self-motivated side projects that they find new ways of doing things.

For their latest, The Free Art Project: Public Experiment No.1, Jana + Koos are taking advantage of free, online resources and then paying it forward. In opposition to the elitism of the art world, The Free Art Project adopts the sentiment of hacker culture and open source software, opening up art appreciation to anyone with an internet connection.

The idea first took root in their minds back in 2013 when the British Library released over a million high quality images from the 1600s, 1700s and 1800s into the public domain via Flickr, making them free to be reused, remixed or used commercially by anyone. Jana + Koos took note and kept on the look out for other collections being made public. Koos says, “When we saw the Met’s link about their public domain and the vast amount of classic art one had access to, it had us trembling with excitement. I mean there are actual Cezanne and Manet artworks big enough to make a building wrap out of.” Jana + Koos printed a few of these pieces for their own walls before a friend, Gareth Steele introduced them to glitching site MOSH where you can upload images to tweak and rehash with free tools. “We fed some close up imagery of romantic, painted boobs through the glitch machine and got some weird (but cool) imagery back, and loved this so much we used it as backgrounds on our iPads and phones. But it felt wasted on our own personal wallpapers so we just set it free really…”

From collections in the public domain, Jana + Koos select high res artworks to download which they then feed through software found on websites and free apps, like MOSH, riffing off classic artworks to create something completely new, and in the process, essentially collaborating with great artists of the past, and technology of the present.

The results are an exercise in experimentation and a canvas for the signature Jana + Koos sense of humour, and style. Each artwork is available for free download (look here!) so you can refresh your desktop background or print some free art for your walls. Jana + Koos also share exactly how they do it here, so that you can make your own pieces if you’d prefer to.

Their only rules are that they aren’t allowed to use any bought software or programmes and, amazingly, most of the effects they made use of can be recreated using a smart phone only. Expensive graphic design software is a barrier to a creative career for so many but The Free Art Project highlights alternative routes to creative expression through digital art.

Jana + Koos admit, “We are both actually quite technologically dumb and so thought that if we can do this then anyone can. Imagine what actual programming techies would produce?”

We asked them about side projects and making art accessible.


 Jana+Koos created a capsule collection of free art for INDIE!

The art in this article is available for free download here.


Why did you feel it was a necessary project to dedicate your time to?

We have always believed in exploring through art projects. It helps you to push yourself and gives you an outlet to do what you want. 

This project specifically has been very gratifying as it’s a quick way we found to access already amazing pieces of work to incorporate into our work, meaning we don’t have to shoot, draw or design everything from scratch. And if it’s helpful for us, we thought how valuable it would be for students, young creatives and other small studios.

How does doing something for free change the task at hand? 

For us it’s great because if it’s free we get to set the parameters of what’s good enough. For us that often ends up being something we find hilarious. And more often than not that ends up being a simple word over a painting that has us laughing for hours in between all the other bullshit.

What’s the benefit for you of doing side projects like these that aren’t commercially-driven?

You get more of the work that you do. So we do the kind of side projects that we want to be our real projects.

What are the advantages of making art more accessible? 

From the start this idea felt like it needed to live beyond us. The power lies in the fact that anyone and everyone can participate. It will be great if non-designers and ‘not artists’ feel like they can make some art themselves. It’s also just a great way of exposing something that could definitely be useful to other young designers, small studios and students. One of the biggest satisfactions has been seeing people who don’t call themselves artists and don’t think of themselves as creatives, who have used it to make their own art and put it up in their houses.

Where do you hope the art lands up?

The project doesn’t really have a bigger purpose for us other than that it’s a lot of fun and falls into our art side of the partnership where we have always and still try out new things, where we make stuff we need to get out of our system and most importantly where we do things that we just find funny or amusing. Who knows where it’s going? But it feels kind of like an important part of this experiment is seeing where it goes. We’d love to do some big paste ups and street art with this – so let us know if you have a spot…

What makes you feel free?

Saying no to things you don’t feel like doing, laughing, and travelling.  

More about J+K / Free Art.

More free art by J+K here.

Interview by Alix-Rose Cowie.

The art in this article is available for free download here.


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